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I’m little behind on sharing the photos and reviews from my 100 Days of Books Instagram project on the blog. Today’s post includes entries 31 through 40, but in real time I’m past book 80 — that seems amazing to me! I’m hoping to get caught up in the next few weeks so I can wrap up sharing here on the blog — and get some ends of project thoughts written up — about the time the project is set to conclude on July 12.

31. Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin

After spending most of her twenties working behind a desk, Nina MacLaughlin applied for a job as a carpenter’s assistant. Despite having no relevant experience, she got the job, working as an apprentice for a journeyman-level carpenter named Mary. From there, she started learning the trade, from pounding nails to pouring cement to building the perfect set of stairs. There are lots of wonderful things about Hammer Head, especially the fact that it’s a memoir about women doing work in a traditionally male-dominated field. It’s also a thoughtful meditation on the value that labor, of all kinds, brings into our lives. I enjoyed this book a lot, and definitely recommend it for people interested in reading about work/life issues for normal women (*cough*Ivanka*cough*).

32. Fooling Houdini by Alex Stone

Fooling Houdini opens at the Magic Olympics in Stockholm. Alec Stone, a lifelong fan of magic, is an unexpected and, as he soon finds out, unprepared competitor. After being told to get off the stage in the middle of his routine, Stone vows to quit magic, giving up his love to pursue a graduate degree in physics at Columbia University. But he can’t quite quit magic cold turkey and eventually decides to take up his craft again. In the book, Stone chronicles his time in both formal and informal magic schools, learning from magician mentors, visiting Las Vegas training centers and even taking to the streets to hone the perfect three-card monte. At the same time, Stone explores the history of magic as well as the psychology, mathematics and neuroscience that go into the perfect magic trick as he tries to develop a signature trick he can use to return to the world of competitive magicians once again. This book is charming, funny, and tailor-written to my narrative nonfiction sweet spot. Highly recommended.

33. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Hey! It’s a book I just finished reading! All the Birds in the Sky is a dystopian/science fiction/fantasy mashup in which “an ancient society of witches and a hipster technological start-up are going to war as the world tears itself apart.” Childhood friends (and maybe lovers) Patricia, a powerful witch, and Laurence, an engineering genius, find themselves at the center of this battle between magic and science. I read this one while distracted and traveling, so I can’t really tell if the plot entirely makes sense, but the characters and premise were such a joy to dive into. It is absurd and fantastical, yet so full of heart, reminding me again of how important it is to find the person whose weird fits together with yours. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

34. The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar

The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar is a book that really changed how I think about making choices. In the book, Iyengar argues that although we identify ourselves by our choices, most of us don’t understand the process we use when making choices or what outside influences can impact what we think we want. One of the biggest conundrums Iyengar and other researchers have discovered is the paradox of choice – having a multitude of options often leaves us dissatisfied with the choice we ultimately make. Iyengar is an engaging author who really knows how to bring her subject to life without losing any of the academic rigor, and she covers a topic that I think everyone could find a way to relate with. This is a great read.

35. Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

While out on a buggy ride, Constance Kopp and her sisters have a run-in with a powerful local factory owner. When Constance’s efforts to collect damages turn into “a war of bricks, bullets, and threats,” she teams up with the local sheriff to try and take him down. Inspired by a real-life female deputy sheriff, Girl Waits With Gun is a delightful piece of historical fiction. I loved the way Amy Stewart integrated historical documents and accounts of this period into the book while still adding enough fictional details to make the story her own. Constance is an amazing character and her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, are equally as well-drawn. The book is a really fun, sit down on a Saturday and dive in sort of read.

36. Introvert Doodles by Maureen “Marzi” Wilson

I started following Marzi Wilson on Instagram some time ago (@IntrovertDoodles) and am always delighted when one of her cartoons pops up in my feed. Her drawings range from funny to thoughtful to serious with equal measure, and her first book manages to keep that same perfect balance. When I read Introvert Doodles on Christmas afternoon, I couldn’t help but text pictures of different pages to friends and family that don’t always understand what it means to be an introvert. This book just makes me smile.

37. Quiet by Susan Cain

Another book I like to recommend to people who want to understand introversion better is Quiet by Susan Cain. Whenever I take the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, I am an off-the-chart introvert. But this fact tends to surprise people who don’t know me well because, for the most part, I’m pretty friendly and decent in social situations. It wasn’t until I read Quiet that I found a vocabulary for introversion/extroversion that made sense to me and that I could articulate to others, based on what types of interactions and work styles energize introverts versus extroverts. Cain suggests that introverts prefer less outside stimulation than extroverts; introverts work more slowly and deliberately, while extroverts like to tackle assignments quickly; and introverts listen, think, and write whereas extroverts talk more and are often more assertive.

38. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

As a young lawyer, Bryan Stevenson helped found the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization focused on providing legal support for those who need it most. The narrative of Just Mercy follows the story of Walter McMillian, a man wrongly accused of murder. As Stevenson shares the long, difficult journey to get McMillian off of death row, he also writes movingly about EJI cases that were not successful, and about the biases and unfairness inherent in our criminal justice system. Stevenson is a clear, persuasive, honest writer, and I this book really is a must read for anyone interested in issues of race and justice.

39. One Hundred Names for Love by Diane Ackerman

In 2006, writer Paul West suffered a massive stroke that nearly destroyed all of the language processing functions of his brain. In One Hundred Names for Love, his wife, author Diane Ackerman, writes about the five years after the stroke changed their lives in huge and fundamental ways. Although this is a memoir, it’s filled with research about how the brain works that helps explain the damage the stroke caused and how Paul was able to rebuild the neurons as he recovered. Ackerman has a beautiful, lush writing style that makes the science blend seamlessly into the rest of the story, which I loved. Although the relationship Ackerman describes is idiosyncratic, in honing in on the specifics of their life together she managed to write a book that almost perfectly describes the common strangeness that becomes part of every relationship. This book burrowed into my heart and stayed with me long after I read it.

40. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

I find Mindy Kaling super delightful, and have enjoyed both of her essay collections. She’s a funny writer, who is not afraid to admit her shortcomings while sharing her experiences in work and life. Why Not Me?, written when Kaling was 36, is equally as light and funny as her first collection, but comes with the wisdom of a few extra years. Why Not Me? is particularly good when it comes to talking about work and also feels less apologetic – both for being written and in the advice Kaling offers – which is a quality I’m trying to emulate as a woman in my early 30s.

And that’s a wrap for this installment. You can check out Days 1 through 10Days 11 through 20, and Days 21 through 30 on the blog, or follow me on Instagram for real-time updates. Cheers!


Titles of BookExpo 2017: Fiction Edition

Last week, I shared a pretty epic-length posted that featured the nonfiction that caught my eye at BookExpo 2017 in New York. This week, I wanted to highlight some of the fiction that I got excited about at the conference.

As you might expect, the pile of fiction I brought home is lot smaller than my pile of nonfiction. I think that tends to happen because I don’t actively look for many titles — I found most of these by happenstance while wandering the floor — and the lines for the most buzzy novels get really long. For someone as line-averse as me, this is usually a deal-breaker. But, I do like to note the titles that publicists and readers are excited about, so I included a few of those in this post as well.

August 2017

When Alice (a fellow Book Riot contributor, blogger at Reading Rambo, and my walk-the-floor buddy for the show) and I visited the Bloomsbury USA booth, The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley (Aug. 1) was one of the books a publicist was able to hand sell us really effectively. Set in Peru in 1859, the book is an explorer’s tale filled with magic and danger. It seems fun!




September 2017

I managed to snag a copy of Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (Sept. 5 from Scribner) totally by chance — I was going by the Scribner booth for a different giveaway, and they just happened to have extra copies of this one leftover from a signing the day before. Score!

Null States by Malka Older (Sept. 19 from Tor) is actually the second book in a trilogy (I think?) called The Centenal Cycle. The first book, Infomocracy, came out in 2016 and is described as a “cyberpunk political thriller.” We’ll see!

One book I wish I’d picked up but didn’t was Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Sept. 12 from Penguin Press). The line for this one was incredibly long, which I hope bodes well for it being as good as her first novel, Everything I Never Told You.

October 2017

Little Brown had a really smart idea, giving away a galley of Righteous by Joe Ide (Oct. 17, 2017) packaged with the text of the first book in the series, IQ, which came out in 2016. IQ is the story of an East Long Beach resident who uses his smarts to help assist the LAPD solve cases. I’m excited to dive into this pair, maybe during a beach vacation later this summer.

A second buzzy fiction book I didn’t have the patience to stand in line for was Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (Oct. 3 from Scribner). I have no idea what this one is about, but A Visit From the Goon Squad was so good I’ll pretty much read anything she writes.

December 2017

Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak (Dec. 5 from Bloomsbury USA) is another book I picked up based on a really good publicist pitch. The book is set during one evening in contemporary Istanbul, but goes back and forth in time to explore the relationship between three young women and their university professor.

January 2018

The cover of Red Clocks by Leni Zumas (Jan. 16 from Lee Boudreaux Books) is just killer, isn’t it? This book sounded like a Handmaid’s Tale-esque story, set in a future America where abortion is illegal, in-vitro fertilization is banned and “the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo.” Scary stuff right now.

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin (Jan. 16 from Delacorte Press) is the story of screenwriter Frances Mario and actress Mary Pickford, set in Hollywood at the turn of the century. I grabbed this because I recognized Melaine Benjamin’s name from other novels I’ve seen really good reviews of — The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife, in particular.

The final big fiction book I want to mention is The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin (Jan. 9 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons). I got to interview Benjamin for a freelance piece a couple years ago when her first book, The Anatomy of Dreams, came out, and I remember her mentioning a bit about this novel. She was really nice, and so I’m excited to see that her second novel is getting a lot of attention.

And that’s the end! I haven’t started any of these books yet, but a lot look like they’ll be good books to pick up this summer. I imagine The Bedlam Stacks will be on my list early, and I anticipate picking up Red Clocks well before the publication date in January.

What books from this epic are you most interested in? What should I start reading first?


Life moves fast, doesn’t it? I feel like I just got home from BookExpo 2017 in New York City, but looking at my calendar I can see that it was almost two weeks ago — I guess that’s what traveling will do to you!

BookExpo, for those who aren’t familiar, is an annual conference for publishing industry professionals. This year BookExpo ran for two days, followed by BookCon, a more consumer-focused event marketed as a “Comic Con for book lovers.” I just stuck around for BookExpo this year. The conference includes panels, giveaways, author signings and other educational events for folks like librarians, bookstore owners, authors, agents, and book media.

I spent most of my two days at BookExpo wandering the floor alone or with Alice (a fellow Book Riot contributor and blogger at Reading Rambo). I enjoy walking the floor with a friend — it feels less intimidating to walk up to booths that way, and it’s fun to see what books grab another reader’s attention. Alice rounded up some of her favorites on her blog, and in a Book Riot post called BookExpo: Females Strong As Hell Edition.

The other two people I spent the most time with were my roommates, Sheila (Book Journey) and Candace (Beth Fish Reads). They are two of my favorite bloggers ever, and made me feel right at home crashing with them at their hotel. And we all missed my usual BookExpo roommate, Florinda (The 3Rs Blog), who was off gallivanting about Italy (#jealous).

Sheila highlighted a few of her top finds on her blog, and Candace has done a number of posts — her top five picks, books from small publishers, and books from big publishers. The best thing about clicking through to all of those links is that you’ll find a bunch of books that I didn’t even see — BookExpo is that big and that varied.

I decided to split up my main BookExpo coverage into two posts — my top nonfiction picks and my top fiction picks. Today’s post is all about the nonfiction that caught my eye and made its way home in my suitcase. (I also shared some titles in the most recent edition of my nonfiction newsletter for Book Riot, True Story, which you can sign up for at this link).

Out Now/Summer 2017

The very first book Alice and I scurried to find was Baking Powder Wars by Linda Civitello (University of Illinois Press) because who would not want to read a microhistory of “America’s essential main ingredient.” Similarly, Grocery by Michael Ruhlman (Harry N. Abrams), looks at America’s relationship with food and our local grocery stories.

One of the buzzier nonfiction titles of BookExpo was The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (Sourcebooks), a story about the history of radium and a group of young women (mostly immigrants) who were killed by the chemical because of their work making glowing watches for the United States Army.

Another book I’m excited for is All Day by Liza Jessie Peterson (Center Street), a story about a poet who spent time teaching incarcerated youth at Rikers Island.

September 2017

I was excited to stumble upon Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi (Sept. 5 from St. Martin’s Press). Zomorodi is the host of WNYC Studio’s Note to Self podcast, one of my favorite podcasts on life and technology. This book looks at “the connection between boredom and original thinking.”

In 2014, game developer Zoe Quinn’s life was almost destroyed by online harassment as part of the #gamergate awfulness. In Crash Override (Sept. 5 from PublicAffairs), Quinn shares her experience and her work helping others through the Crash Override Network.

In Cuz (Sept. 5 from Liveright), Danielle Allen looks at mass incarceration through the story of her first cousin, who spent more than a decade in jail as a young man, then struggled to survive after he was released.

Another book I found while wandering was Ranger Games by Ben Blum (Sept. 12 from Doubleday). In this book, Blum investigates a crime involving his first cousin, a U.S. Army Ranger who, the day before it was set to deploy to Iraq, robbed a bank with two soldiers and two strangers. Blum looks the crime.

October 2017

I really loved Caitlin Doughty’s first book (a memoir of becoming an undertaker), so I was psyched to snag a copy of From Here to Eternity (Oct. 3 from W.W. Norton), a look at how cultures across the world care for their dead.

Kathleen Murray Moran lost her husband on Sept. 11, 1976, to a terrorists bomb at Grand Central Station. Life Detonated (Oct. 10 from Amberjack Publishing) is her story of young widowhood and resilience — this one got on my radar for obvious reasons, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

I love historical true crime, so of course I managed to bring home a copy of Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Eatwell (Oct. 10 from Liferight). The book revisits the murder of starlet Elizabeth Short in 1947, and provides a new account of this unsolved murder.

One of my not-so-secret obsession is cryptography, which also made me excited for Code Girls by Liza Mundy (Oct. 10 from Hachette Books), a look at the “hidden army of female cryptographers” who helped end World War II.

November 2017

Graywolf Press does great nonfiction, and Bunk by Kevin Young (Nov. 14 from Graywolf Press) looks like it won’t be an exception. Subtitled “The Rise of Hoaxes, Humbug, Plagiarists, Phonies, Post-Facts and Fake News,” this one looks super timely.

I grabbed a copy of Supernormal by Megan Jay (Nov. 14 from Twelve) because I have been reading a lot on resilience this year. In the book, Jay “narrates the continuing saga that is resilience as it challenges us to consider whether — and how — good wins out in the end.”

And finally, I am excited about The Extra Woman by Joanna Scutts, “a cultural history of single women in the city” inspired by the life and work of Marjorie Hillis (Nov. 14 from Liveright).

Whew! That got really long really fast! Thanks for sticking with me through all of that. I’ll have another (much shorter) post with some of the fiction I picked up at BookExpo up soon.

What books from this epic are you most interested in? What should I start reading first?


Unsurprisingly, being unemployed since the end of March has been really great for my reading life. I’ve read more in each of the last couple of months than I did through all of January, February and March, which feels amazing! I mean, the whole not working thing isn’t really sustainable in the long term, but for now I am just grateful to be getting my reading groove back.

April 2017

First up, the books I finished in April:

  1. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller (young adult fiction)
  2. Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker (nonfiction)
  3. Hit Makers by Derek Thompson (nonfiction/audio book)
  4. Dark Money by Jane Meyer (nonfiction)
  5. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Gran (nonfiction)
  6. Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (nonfiction)
  7. Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson (fiction)
  8. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (nonfiction)
  9. The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson (fiction)

Wow, looking at that list is surprising — I didn’t realize how much nonfiction I read in April, and how many were good. I really liked Cork Dork and Killers of the Flower Moon, and got a lot to think about from Option B, Sandberg and Grant’s new book about grief, joy and resilience. Perfect Little World was also a great read, a fun look at family and community and rebuilding after calamity.

May 2017

And second, the books I finished in May:

  1. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders (science fiction/fantasy)
  2. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (fiction)
  3. The Art of Grace by Sarah L. Kaufman (nonfiction)
  4. Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane (fiction)
  5. In the Language of Miracles by Rajia Hassib (fiction)
  6. The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan (mystery)
  7. My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows (young adult fiction)
  8. Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson (nonfiction)
  9. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (fiction)

Having a long weekend at our family cabin for Memorial Day helped me finish a lot of books, many that were outside my normal reading comfort zone. Both Since We Fell and The Unquiet Dead were fun mystery/thrillers, and My Lady Jane was a goofy young adult fantasy with magic and shape changing and royalty. The Little Paris Bookshop was also a good read, in an unexpected way.

A Look to June

On Monday, I spent most of the day cleaning and reorganizing all of my books — gotta make space for the new BookExpo titles and all the books I’ve been buying (whoops). But getting things in order made me so excited for all the books I’ve got to choose from… and also a little overwhelmed, so many choices.

Today I am heading out of town for a long weekend in Duluth (my last bit of travel for awhile), and so I’m trying to decide what books to bring. So far, I know I’ll be packing The Radium Girls by Kate Moore, a narrative nonfiction account of the horrors of radium, and Startup by Doree Shafrir, a novel about startup culture in Manhattan. They both sound like fun.

So, yay, summer reading on the North Shore and on the patio. I can’t wait. What books are you excited for this summer?


Briefly | It’s early on a Tuesday morning, and I’m at home for a bit before heading out to BookExpo 2017 in New York. My flight leaves bright and early tomorrow, and I’ll be coming home late Saturday. I’ve been on the road a lot lately, first out to eastern Wisconsin, then to our family cabin for Memorial Day, and up to northern Minnesota next week. Life is busy when you’re unemployed (ha!).

Reading | Thanks to quiet time at the cabin, I got a ton of reading done while sitting by the lake (or, more often, inside the cabin looking at the lake because the weather wasn’t particularly cooperative). I finished three books — The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan (Canadian murder mystery, first in a series); My Lady Jane by Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand and Jodi Meadows (goofy young adult fantasy/historical fiction about Jane Grey); and Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson (narrative nonfiction about a 1900 hurricane in Galveston, Texas).

I’m nearly finished with two more — The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George (women’s fiction, a little out of my comfort zone but it came recommended), and One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Saachi Koul (hilarious essay collection about growing up the daughter of Indian immigrants).

Watching | I’ve been on a bit of a Disney movies binge the last few weeks with Mulan, Hercules, and Moana. They’ve all been really good! My sister and I also got out to the movies a couple of times to see Everything, Everything (so dang charming I could hardly stand it) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (very, very funny).

Listening | Spotify’s Disney Hits playlist is pretty much the best, and I’m not even embarrassed to admit that.

Loving | Although I’m starting to feel some twinges of impatience, I am still enjoying my unemployment sabbatical. I’d like to start getting into more of a productive (but still relaxed) routine soon, but that’ll have to wait until later in June.

Hating | My weight has been slowly creeping up the last several months. It’s totally my fault — too many donuts, too little exercise — but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. “Eat Less Junk, Move More Often” is going to be my motto once I get back from NYC.

Anticipating | BookExpo 2017! I’m bummed that my usual roommate, Florinda of The 3R’s Blog, won’t be there this year — she’s off having the best time in Italy — but I’m excited to get to spend the conference with two of my other favorite bloggers, Shelia of Book Journey and Candace of Beth Fish Reads.

I feel totally unprepared for the conference — especially compared to Chicago last year — but I think that just gives me more flexibility to roam the floor and see what’s out there. No matter what, going to New York and nerding out about books will be fun. If you’re reading this and will be there, let me know so we can meet up!